Day 2 of CBR’s WonderCon coverage began with the Watchmen panel. Last night, a handful of convention attendees were selected by raffle to attend a midnight IMAX screening and now, with less than a week until the film’s release nationwide, the cast and crew unite once again to discuss “Watchmen” with fans. WonderCon Director of Programming Eddie Ibrahim introduced LA Times writer Geoff Boucher, who moderated the panel.
Director Zack Snyder informed the audience that even he had not yet seen the film in IMAX, just before Bouche asked about the decision to not use a cast of big-name actors.
“I did talk to Tom Cruise for a while, but he had ‘Valkyrie,'” Snyder said lightheartedly. He said that Patrick Wilson was the first actor he confirmed for “Watchmen.” Jackie Earl Haley submitted an audition video of himself playing Rorschach–“he did a scene in his kitchen, he had kind of a dodgy Rorschach mask on,” Snyder said.
“In the hard economy, we gave you extra movie,” Snyder said of the film’s running time, in response to a comment from Boucher. “You get 40 extra minutes at no extra cost.” He also said that he would have had difficulty cutting the movie if not for DVDs, noting that some favorite scenes are not in the theatrical version but will be on the home release, such as the death of Nite Owl I. “There will also be a director’s cut for theatres,” Snyder announced. “With a few extra scenes of blue nudity.”
Snyder then showed a clip of the film’s opening sequence.
The Comedian, in his apartment, listens to a newscast of President Richard Nixon railing against the Soviet threat as the world verges on nuclear war. The doomsday clock moves up five minutes. Pundits then discuss the possibility of attacks. As the Comedian finally settles in to relax, a dark figure kicks in his door. “Just a matter of time wasn’t it?” A fight sequence, resulting in the Comedian being beaten badly. Finally, he utters, “it’s a joke, it’s all a joke…” and is then thrown thrown from window. The blood-smattered smiley button falls after him, as shattered glass shards hit the street.
Still images and an uplifting tableau follow as the credits roll, showing the Minutemen in better days. Darker scenes soon follow. President Kennedy meets Doctor Manhattan, before being assassinated by the Comedian on the grassy knoll. Vietnam protests turn violent. Andy Warhol presents his Nite Owl pop art. Ozymandias opens Studio 54. “Who watches the Watchmen?” is spray painted on a store window before a bomb is thrown through the glass.
The investigation into the Comedian’s death begins. Rorschach narrates his first journal entry. “This city’s afraid of me. I’ve seen its true face.”
Several more minutes of footage followed, introducing Nite Owl I and II.
Snyder mentioned that his son plays Baby Rorschach in the film, and was also Baby Leonidas in “300.”
Boucher: “Do you think there will be a sequel?”
Snyder: “Not that I’ll have anything to do with,” adding that a sequel should not be possible given the story. “What’s the sequel to ‘Moby Dick?'”
He said he believed the studio initially planned for sequels, and that the way it was pitched to him was, “We have a script for something called ‘The Watchmen’ – we think it’s based on a graphic novel.” He also joked that an early version had Nite Owl killing Rorschach in the Owl Ship, complete with a witty punchline.
Snyder then discussed “Black Freighter,” the parallel story in “Watchmen” which Warner Bros. is offering as a direct to DVD movie. “We were able to create an animated version of ‘The Black Freighter,’ and I got an extra day of shooting to do the Bernie [scenes] that frame the graphic novel,” he said. “We also have this crazy version of ‘Watchmen’ that will come out in the fall, which is ‘Watchmen’ intercut with ‘Black Freighter.'”
“Watchmen” artist Dave Gibbons and actors Malin Akerman, Billy Crudup, Jeffry Dean Morgan, Jackie Earl Haley, and Patrick Wilson then joined the panel
“When I read the graphic novel, that’s the thing i heard in my head,” Haley said of Rorschach’s voice.
On costumes, Akerman joked that”I don’t usually wear latex, or enormously high heels when I fight on the streets.”
Crudup said he “spent a lot of times thinking about other things” in order to affect Dr. Manhattan’s detached manner.
When Boucher described Nite Owl as the heart and of the story, actor Patrick Wilson agreed. “You’re pulling for Dan the whole time,” Wilson said, “whether it’s to put the suit on or to get it up.” He also praised the strength of Gibbons’s and Alan Moore’s graphic novel. “Any question you had about the role was right there in the book,” Wilson said.
Gibbons said “this is like the movie I saw in my head” back when he was doing original art from Moore’s script.
Boucher then opened the floor to questions.
The first “question” was entirely made of praise for the actors and the film. “Billy, you were a bit short-changed,” the fan joked of Doctor Manhattan’s fabled blue nudity. “Well then I congratulate you,” Crudup replied.
Asked about favorite or least favorite scenes to shoot, Morgan joked, “I loved the rape scene–I couldn’t get to that fast enough!”
A fan dressed as Batman asked about the costumes, particularly the nipples on the Ozymandias costume. “Dave drew him with an awesome gold leotard… which was awesome… but you’ve got to be an amazing dude to pull that off,” Snyder said. “We wanted to butch him up a bit, but we kept the nipples as a testament to that.”
To Morgan: “Will you ever do a role where you don’t die?” “I’m not sure; this death thing’s working out for me. Maybe that prequel to Watchmen that Dave’s drawing…”
The final comment was from a deaf fan who praised the film’s visual nature.